Eric Ekis knows all about how difficult the teenage years can be. The quiet 14-year-old freshman at Franklin Community High School in Franklin, Indiana weighed approximately 510 pounds when he started high school. Until a few months ago, he spent his days miserably shuffling from class to class, just trying not to be noticed.
The Indianapolis Star reports that two concerned teachers decided to do something about Eric’s weight problem and corresponding low self-esteem. After English teacher Don Wettrick observed other classmates bullying Eric, he asked the teen to work out with him, only to have Eric say he “couldn’t.” Wettrick even had to pull the obese boy aside one day to discuss his health.
Wettrick and teacher Lesleigh Groce learned that Eric’s weight problem actually stemmed from grief over suddenly losing his father, and subsequently becoming immobilized for months due to painful surgeries on both of his legs. Laura Ekis, Eric’s mom, says she didn’t even realize her son’s gradual weight gain until the 6’4” tall teen had ballooned up to 510 pounds.
Wettrick and Groce decided to enlist the school’s help for Eric. Wettrick taught an independent studies innovations class that teaches students to think creatively. One of the students in the class, senior and swim team star Kevin Stahl, needed a project for the class and took on Eric’s cause. He soon devised the “Eric Project,” a plan for the freshman to gain awareness about to combat his obesity.
As part of the plan, Eric began walking in the mornings. He also took special classes in nutrition and had one-on-one counseling sessions. Instead of bullying Eric, classmates now invite him for walks and sit with him in the cafeteria for lunch.
According to Eric, the plan is working. “I was sick and tired of being big and bigger than everyone else," he says. "I got lucky it was Kevin. Kevin is just a nice person. … I am glad he is my friend.”
Thanks to this inspiring story quickly going viral, one has to wonder if other schools around the country will follow suit. It seems like there’s nothing to lose...
Source: Indianapolis Star